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The absolute guide to understanding employee motivation

Learning and Development | 6 Min Read

The absolute guide to understanding employee motivation


A motivated workforce is a critical aspect of running successful businesses. Motivation drives people’s interest and engagement in their work and helps them achieve goals. Motivated employees are also known to take up additional responsibilities and initiatives.


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What is employee motivation, and why is it important?

Employee motivation is the energy, commitment, and creativity a person brings to their job. Motivated employees look forward to taking on responsibilities and learning new skills. They are also energetic and enthusiastic. Better performance and higher profitability are just two reasons businesses spend time and money implementing employee motivation strategies in the workplace.

In addition, having a motivated workforce ensures:

  • The work environment is positive
  • There is a camaraderie between the employees
  • Absenteeism is low
  • Productivity is high

For most employees, money remains the primary motivator. But in the current scenario, motivation is more than just compensation for many. Employee motivation at the workplace is measured by how aligned people feel with their company’s goals. For a better understanding, motivation can be divided into two types:

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  • Intrinsic motivation: Any motivation that comes from within is termed intrinsic motivation. For example, intrinsic motivation drives a person’s desire to perform the job role to the best of their ability. It is their beliefs and ideals that are the driving factors here. Additionally, intrinsically motivated workers show qualities like acceptance, curiosity, and desire to succeed. An easy way to increase intrinsic motivation is to praise and provide feedback to the workforce.
  • Extrinsic motivation: Extrinsic motivation is driven by external factors, such as rewards and recognition. Some employees are fueled by external motivation. Hence, rewards such as perks, awards and bonuses can promote willingness among workers to accomplish goals and learn a new skill.


What drives employee motivation?

Some of the factors that affect employee motivation in the workplace are:


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Value of the reward:

A meaningful reward for efforts is one of the simplest yet important ways to motivate employees. The reward should be one that employees cherish, which encourages them to stay motivated, work efficiently and get better results.

Employee empowerment:

Giving workers more responsibility and decision-making authority gives them more control over their tasks. Also, it makes them better equipped to carry out those tasks. This helps fix instances where employees might feel frustrated about being held accountable for jobs they did not have the resources to do.

Growth opportunities:

Advancement on the professional front is another crucial motivator at work. People are highly motivated if there are growth opportunities. Therefore, companies that provide career advancement opportunities have better-motivated employees.

Trust in leaders:

Working under leaders who treat employees fairly and provide the same level of respect to all employees is another motivator at work. In addition, leaders who believe in their employees and include them in decision-making tend to have a better-motivated workforce.


Measuring employee motivation

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Psychometric assessments are a great way to measure motivation among employees. Mercer | Mettl’s Motivation Inventory (MMI) provides a comprehensive understanding of what drives workers and motivates them to perform their jobs effectively. It helps assess intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Furthermore, MMI can be utilized for learning and development (L&D) and improving retention rates, directly correlated with a motivated workforce.



Regular surveys act as a valuable tool for measuring employee motivation. The surveys help gather employee feedback, giving insights into their engagement and motivation. It also provides an overview of employees’ overall satisfaction with their job. Surveys can be a questionnaire or one-on-one meetings. An easy and simple way to measure employee motivation at the workplace is using Mercer | Mettl’s 360-Degree Feedback Tool, which automates the feedback process and provides a 360 view of an employee’s performance and motivation.


Performance evaluation

Alone or as a part of the employee survey, performance evaluation is a helpful tool for measuring employee motivation. Managers can spot demotivated workers by keeping a tab on work turned in. The less motivated employees are, the more likely they will be negligent. Similarly, the opposite is true, as committed employees will be diligent. Organizations can spot demotivated employees by conducting regular job evaluations and trying to solve the crisis together.


How to improve employee motivation

There is no fixed formula for keeping employees motivated. Instead, maintaining employee motivation is an ongoing task. Organizations need to experiment and learn what works for the team. Here are a few motivational techniques management can use to motivate their workforce.

Promote creativity and innovation

Encouraging innovation from all quarters makes the employee feel empowered and motivated. Organizations benefit from the exchange of ideas. It also creates an openness, making them more flexible to change, which might be lacking in an organization with a rigid hierarchy.

Organize internal hackathons

Internal hackathons are an excellent way to motivate workplace staff and boost team engagement. They provide employees with dedicated space and time to develop new ideas. Internal hackathons have no hierarchy, and all employees are encouraged to contribute and collaborate, boosting innovation and improving team engagement. It also creates a safe space for employees to share their thoughts and helps promote an inclusive and diverse organizational culture. Another motivating factor is the added opportunity to win awards or prizes.

Encourage learning and development (L&D)

Employees will feel encouraged if their organization provides tools and opportunities to learn and develop. In addition, companies can show they are committed to the workforce by running programs for employee upskilling. For instance, accreditation programs are among the most popular and effective ways to upskill, leading to employee growth and motivation. Organizations looking to automate their learning and development (L&D) programs can use Mercer | Mettl’s virtual assessment and development centers (VADCs). It is a fully online, location-agnostic tool to assess employees quickly and accurately.

Allow flexible working arrangements

According to a World Economic Forum report, more than 53% of employees prioritize health and well-being over work. The last couple of years have brought about this drastic change. Workers are now concentrating on the need to meet their demands that lie beyond the workplace. Companies adopting flexible work arrangements have seen an increase in workplace morale. Employees are enthusiastic and energetic, which leads to better performance and productivity.

Club monetary and non-monetary incentives

For most workers, money remains the chief motivator. Companies can offer monetary rewards to promote creativity, boost productivity and reduce absenteeism. Furthermore, organizations can combine it with non-monetary incentives to foster team spirit and drive intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Companies that combine incentives reap benefits through motivated employees and a participatory work environment.

Include employees in goal-setting

Goals are already used as a metric to measure employee performance; when done correctly, they can act as a motivator in the workplace. Therefore, one must include employees when setting up goals while keeping the goal specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound. It is also essential to review and revisit goals after a set period and discuss with employees what can be changed and what resources they need to accomplish them. This will ensure that employees’ performance is elevated and employees are motivated.



Motivated employees are the cornerstone of a successful and thriving organization. Employers must keep in mind that motivation is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor but requires constant ongoing efforts. For a motivated workforce, companies should be open to communication and have a genuine interest in the well-being and professional growth of their employees. Implementing strategies laid out in the above sections makes it possible to transform the workforce, leading to higher job satisfaction and increased productivity.



How can I improve motivation in the workplace?

Why is it important to understand what motivates employees?

What is a motivational strategy?

Originally published November 3 2023, Updated November 8 2023

Written by

Vaishali has been working as a content creator at Mercer | Mettl since 2022. Her deep understanding and hands-on experience in curating content for education and B2B companies help her find innovative solutions for key business content requirements. She uses her expertise, creative writing style, and industry knowledge to improve brand communications.

About This Topic

Employee engagement is a process by which companies undertake specific activities to interact with employees and engage them. The activities include employee development, team building, skills development, trainings etc.

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